With Election Day this week, it’s the right time to talk about a critical aspect of UJA’s work you likely know little about.
For many decades now, UJA’s had a team dedicated to government relations and public policy that advocates on behalf of our entire nonprofit network — spanning Jewish community centers, health and human service agencies, day schools, synagogues, and camps. Last year alone, UJA helped secure nearly $500 million in government funding for nonprofits.
This past Monday, I traveled to Albany with the professional and lay heads of our government relations team. We were there to meet with senior budget officials to make the case for increased funding for Holocaust survivors, and to ask for capital security grants to include houses of worship. This isn’t about photo-ops at the governor’s mansion; we’re talking dollars and cents, and the extraordinary impact this funding can have.
Many of our nonprofit partners don’t have the resources to advocate on their own. They rely on us to be their voice in the halls of government, and over the last few years, we’ve had some significant funding “wins.”
As a direct result of our lobbying, the state government last year increased capital security funding for at-risk institutions from $25 million to $45 million, and added camps to those who qualify for this funding. Working with Jewish Federations of North America, we helped drive an increase in federal funding for nonprofit security, including houses of worship, from $25 million in 2017 to $60 million in 2018. On the city level, we’ve been able to increase funding for Holocaust survivors from $1 million in 2015 to $4 million in 2019.
Here in New York City, we focus much of our energy on making sure government pays for social services contracted to our agencies — fairly and on time. This year, we successfully advocated for our nonprofits to receive desperately-needed increases for overhead. And we effectively made the case for early childhood workers in JCCs and other nonprofits to be paid on par with Department of Education teachers.
There’s another dimension to this work that’s important to note. While government resources will always far surpass philanthropic endeavors, it’s UJA’s funding that enables our network nonprofits to compete successfully for government contracts. Simply put, it’s about leverage. UJA funding leverages government funding. Simultaneously, our advocacy makes the case for additional government support.
Policy news like this is usually buried deep in the metro section (if it makes the news at all). But it’s immeasurably important to our partners on the ground and the people they serve: early childhood workers at JCCs doing the same job as public-school teachers; day school students receiving subsidized kosher food; congregants attending synagogue services with enhanced security; Holocaust survivors receiving nourishing meals and a friendly visit right at their front door.
Many may not be aware of the intricacies of our policy work, but without a doubt, we can all greatly appreciate what it means to have that paycheck, food, greater peace of mind, and friendly visit.
It’s what we make possible — thanks to all of you.